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Why Did The CEO Of Battersea Dogs Home Do An Executive MBA?

Claire Horton is CEO of UK charity Battersea Dogs Home and recently received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth. She explains how an Executive MBA shaped her career


Mon Mar 16 2020

Claire Horton understands the value of pets to a family home. As well as having three dogs of her own, Simba, Pilot, and Archie, Claire is CEO of one of the UK's biggest animal charities, Battersea Dogs Home—who care for over 7,000 animals every year.

Given the success of Claire's career in the the non-profit sector, it may surprise you to hear that Claire never studied for a bachelor's. Halfway through her career, she decided to study for an Executive MBA at Warwick Business School, and she credits the program with elevating her career to the highest level. This dedication has even recently resulted in recognition from the Queen.

“Putting the theory behind the practice”

For Claire, social purpose is the driving force in her career. It has defined her work, and from an early stage she began amassing experience in the charitable sector.

“I’m an ethics and values driven person,” Claire explains.

Claire worked her way up to managerial roles at NSPCC, and then as a director for Cats Protection UK. By 2006, she’d moved to a position as chief executive for the University of Warwick’s student union, another non-profit.

Claire’s managers were dealing with complex operational problems, and Claire found this was a penchant she shared. A “turnaround practitioner”, Claire began creating cultures to implement new business strategies—bringing people together to work cohesively.

By her late thirties, Claire had already carved a successful career, with senior management experience at some of the UK’s largest charities—so why was she considering going back to business school?

“The reason I considered the Executive MBA was to put the theory behind the practice,” Claire explains. “I’d worked in organisations where we’d ensure operations ran fluently, but I wanted to understand the modelling behind this. Was I doing it right, and how could I improve?”

Claire was keen to understand the processes behind the business models not only to fill in her learning, but to better prepare her for implementing new management models at future organisations.

After considering her EMBA options, Claire’s existing work with the University of Warwick made Warwick Business School a natural fit. Once she was enrolled on the Executive MBA program, Claire found she was able to tailor it around her values and her business interests.

“Working towards social purpose is my chosen professional sphere,” Claire explains. “Being able to take lessons on social impact and shared values into the large corporates I’ve worked at has been really useful.”

Corporate social responsibility modules gave her the opportunity to pursue her main area of interest—social purpose—anchoring the EMBA to her charity work.

“The EMBA has taught me how to lead teams of people to help them become more ambitious and start becoming innovative,” Claire says.

The journey to CEO of Battersea Dogs Home

After graduating from WBS in 2008, Claire had a successful stint as CEO of the Variety Club children’s charity, before landing the role at Battersea. 323eaf805792560fcd3ae3a4c83443adc0aabbb9.jpg

One of the UK’s forefront animal charities, it was turning over $13 million a year when Claire took over in 2010, but had a $2.5 million operating deficit. It was another turnaround project for Claire.

“There was no question about the great people working there,” Claire says, “but they didn’t have the right shared objectives and motives—how do you get those people together to create a sustainable future and extend our reach?”

Changing the fortunes of Battersea, then, presented a complex challenge. Claire explained how the skills she honed at WBS—in culture development and strategic leadership skills—informed her process.

“It developed a resilience in both me and the organisation by putting in place capacity—ensuring we have the right enablers to implement the right strategies,” says Claire.

Alongside her role at Battersea, Claire also juggles governmental work. Working as a non-executive director for the Animal and Welfare board—part of the UK government’s Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)—she works on wider national issues and has lobbied successfully for major legislation change.

It’s a challenge that melds her passion for social purpose with bringing people together. It’s something Claire recognizes from her EMBA program, where students come from existing managerial backgrounds, from diverse industries.

“Being able to take modules with people from so many different backgrounds helped me think differently about how I do business,” Claire explains.

Claire is often invited to either Warwick or their London base at the Shard to deliver lectures on topics like strategic leadership.

“One of the great things about these discussions is the things I learn from the current EMBA students,” Claire says, “It’s a two-way experience and I’m still learning from WBS now.”

Recognition from the Queen

Over the decade that Claire has been at the Battersea helm, she has overseen year on year growth. The turnover has grown from $13 million to $54 million a year. Battersea has also gone global, after launching the Battersea Academy—a professional development center for animal rescue and re-homing, which has been attended by over 50 countries to date.

Claire received a CBE in the Queen’s 2020 New Year’s Honors list—an accolade recognizing Claire’s many years of hard work in the charity sector, and the positive impact it’s had on society.

“I was absolutely thrilled that my work with the organisations was recognized,” says Claire. “But ultimately it’s a collective award for the hard work of everybody I’ve worked with.”

Student Reviews

Warwick Business School




On Campus

BSc Management with Marketing

I loved Warwick business school. The staff is supportive, my academic tutor was key in my development throughout the 3 years and you have to meet with her/him every term. Most professors are helpful and would happily offer support if needed. You also have office hours and can contact professors by email and through the forum. In general, WBS instills in you the willingness to learn and the resilience needed for you for whatever career you choose. Very international community which broadens your horizon and makes you more open minded and self aware. You will most certainly make friends and memories for life. I recommend that you get outside of your comfort zone and try new activities with your friends! WBS also has a great reputation and offers careers opportunities, and careers support throughout the degree. There is the opportunity to do a year abroad to further develop on a personal level. I wasn’t able to do this due to Covid but I would have loved to do it during normal circumstances! Would definitely recommend this. Although Warwick is not a city university, the campus vibe has a lot of advantages, especially at an undergraduate level. You are always around familiar faces, and in a student environment. Moreover, Birmingham is only 20 mins away from Leamington spa and London is only one hour away! Perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway!




On Campus

Life at Warwick Business School

Pursuing my master's degree at WBS has been a game-changer in my life. With high-quality education, interaction with students from across the world, amazing campus life and much more. I was able to learn about business, finance, project management and strategy all in one course: MSc in Management at WBS. Besides the top-notch education from the best professors, I also enjoyed being a part of fun societies and participating in fun activities such as scavenger hunts and so much more. The school also organises many company visits and interactions which help students get a head start at finding a job. As my course came to an end, I also have a good full-time job placement in my hands. Overall, my experience at WBS was a great one.






The Warwick Business School was like a dream come to life for me. The University ranking speaks for itself, from top-tier facilities to some of the best professors I had to honour to study with I fell in love with my course. Interactions with people from all over the world gave me a newfound confidence in myself. Career prospects after graduating are endless due to the contacts of the universities and the success rate for previous students, it does open a lot of doors for students in various career fields. The campus life is quite good as well with a lot of student groups and clubs, and extra circular activities to engage students at all times. Loved my experience.




On Campus

A good business school

It is a very cutting-edge, career-oriented business school, all courses are very practical, and the college does a very good job of career service. From the hardware and facilities to the staff, the student experience is at the core of the school and student satisfaction is taken very seriously. I understand that many universities in the UK are relatively traditional and can occasionally be rigid in terms of rules and regulations, and although WBS has a relatively short history, this makes it more innovative and dynamic, which is essential for a business school. The downside is that because it is on the outskirts of Coventry, it is a long bus ride to the city centre, not to mention the difference in experience from a big city like London.




On Campus


The people, campus, staff. It’s a very enjoyable environment and it’s particularly good for learning and playing sports. The people there are extremely friendly and welcoming and it’s very easy to make friends




What I Like About Warwick

I’ve personally liked my experience at Warwick so far because of the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet and how many opportunities we students are provided with to learn and grow. Within Warwick, I’m part of the Business School, a learning haven comprised of well-structured modules and extremely helpful people All in all, a great place to be :)




Campus Life

One thing that stood out for me was the campus life, you felt like part of a community. The social aspects of the student union and on-campus accommodation meant you can easily get together and enjoy with friends. Additionally, I felt the course provided a variety of subjects allowing me to enhance my knowledge, from Marketing to Law and Finance. Overall I would most definitely recommend this university to friends and family.




Excellence self catered

The campus is very welcoming and Modern. There are many opportunities at Warwick but it is up to the student how do they want to make the most out of it and the staff at the school will definitely helo as much as possible. The location and the ranking have been amazing.




Warwick business school

Warwick business school is one of the best universities around the globe with a solid base of economic and business studies. Moreover, students get a chance to study in a diverse and warm environment with professional stuff which tries to provide the best opportunities for career development. One of the memorable features of the university are great events which sometimes take a place in one of the landmarks of the London city, the Shard building.

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